A warm bath, gentle yoga or glass of wine before bedtime are a few things people do to ensure that they get a goodnight sleep.
Along with eating well and regular exercise, getting adequate, good quality sleep is important for optimal health, well being and prevention of many diseases.
Long-term, chronic insomnia can have serious consequences and may lead to the progression of various conditions.
Research has shown that adults who sleep six hours or less per night, over time, may have an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance. In addition, sleeping less generally means eating more over a 24-hour period and hence, unintentional weight gain.
Depression, headaches, substance abuse and automobile accidents also have a relationship with chronic insomnia. Driving drowsy can be as dangerous as impaired driving.
Sometimes, insomnia can be a symptom of other problems or situations, including stress, shift work, jet lag or having a sedentary lifestyle.
In general, the types of sleep problems include difficulty falling asleep, trouble maintaining sleep, early morning awakening, unrefreshing sleep, and behaviours that interfere with sleep, such as snoring, teeth-grinding, restless legs, dry mouth, sleepwalking and breathing problems.
If chronic insomnia is troubling you, there are some methods to help. Ways to sleep better include some daily routines, and also food and fluid considerations.
Routines to improve sleep:
• Unwind. Taking a bath/shower, listening to calming music or reading a book are a few ways to relax before bed. Limit electronic screen time, including TV, computer games, or going online, which are all stimulating activities.
• Exercise regularly a few hours before bed. Studies show that people who have daily activity in their routine have a deeper sleep.
For improved fitness, a good rule of thumb is to start with 30-60 minutes, three times a week, or many short bursts of 10-minute periods daily. The exercise should be completed at least a few hours before bedtime for better sleep.
• Follow a similar sleep/wake routine daily. People who have various routines for waking up and sleeping times are more likely to have sleep disturbances.
• Limit naps to less than 30 minutes, if at all. Napping too long during the day can be linked with more trouble sleeping at night.
• If falling asleep is the issue, try getting up and doing a calming activity (read, listen to music, take a bath, or meditate) after 30 minutes of lying in bed trying to sleep.
If you try too hard to fall asleep, it may backfire and make it more difficult.
• Make your bedroom a sanctuary. If your room is comfortable and only used for sleeping (not an office, or entertainment room), it is more likely to help put you in the mood for restful, calm sleep.
• Limit caffeine close to bedtime. Coffee, tea, chocolate and soft drinks are the most common sources of this stimulant in our diet, but some over-the-counter medications may contain caffeine that can affect sleep.
In addition, many energy-type drinks, such as Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar have high levels of caffeine.
• Limit alcohol close to bedtime. Sometimes alcohol helps us to fall asleep more easily, but can disrupt your quality of sleep. Beer, wine and liquor contain alcohol, along with some over-the-counter medications.
• Avoid going to bed too hungry or too full. Deep fried, greasy, spicy foods take longer to digest, and may cause symptoms of heartburn/acid indigestion which can interrupt sleep. Eating regularly throughout the day, with a light snack, if you are hungry, before bed, can help with sleep.
• Stay hydrated throughout the day. Ensure that you drink adequate amounts of non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids to stay hydrated.
If waking up in the middle of the night to urinate is a problem, try getting all your fluids in prior to the evening (for example, stop drinking fluids by 6 p.m).
Improving the quality of your sleep can have positive mental and physical ripple effects. This leads to better health for you and your housemates and/or loved ones.
Sandra Gentleman is a registered dietitian who is passionate about health and wellness. She is co-owner of Wild West Watersports.